2013 September 29 Sunday
Miami And US Becoming Latin America

Tim Padgett sees some bad trends in south Florida. Read the whole thing.

There are two hard truths to swallow here. The first is that Miami is dead last among the largest U.S. metropolitan areas when it comes to workers trained for STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, math) fields – which is a big reason it’s next-to-dead-last in its ratio of high-tech companies to total workers.

Where else is that dearth of science education and tech industry a chronic millstone? Latin America, which accounts for a paltry three percent of the world’s R&D compared to 30 percent for Asia

Did you know that Miami-Dade has the second highest level of economic inequailty out of all US counties? It has high inequality levels similar to that of Latin America. Never mind our elites look at Latin America so fondly. They love enormous social and economic distances between top and bottom. The decline of the middle class is being accelerated by immigration. I urge you to try to move up so that you do not move down.

Padgett understands Latin America well.

Tim Padgett is WLRN-Miami Herald News' Americas correspondent covering Latin America and the Caribbean from Miami. He has covered Latin America for almost 25 years, for Newsweek as its Mexico City bureau chief from 1990 to 1996, and for Time as its Latin America bureau chief, first in Mexico from 1996 to 1999 and then in Miami, where he also covered Florida and the U.S. Southeast, from 1999 to 2013.

Padgett has interviewed more than 20 heads of state, including former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and current Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and he was one of the few U.S. correspondents to sit down with the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez during his 14-year rule.

By Randall Parker 2013 September 29 09:03 PM 
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Disability Insurance: A Really Big And Growing Scam

The unemployed in America are using disability insurance as a longer term and more reliable form of unemployment payments. The result: a big drop in labor market participation and a more stagnant economy.

Although DI recipients may initially have climbed because the economy was weak, their numbers will almost certainly not decline when it strengthens again; only 4% of beneficiaries return to work within ten years. The proportion of working-age adults on DI has risen from 1.3% in 1970 to 4.6% in 2013. The impact on participation rates may be cyclical at first and then become structural.

Note that the rise in Disability Insurance recipients has occurred while work has gotten less physical. Granted, the population has aged. But injuries incurred at work have plummeted.

What would help separate out the real and fake pains: brain scans.

By Randall Parker 2013 September 29 10:33 AM 
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2013 September 28 Saturday
Seymour Hersh On Obsequious American Media

An investigative journalist who broke the My Lai massacre story and many other big story says the American media uncritically fawns over Barack Obama.

Hersh returns to US president Barack Obama. He has said before that the confidence of the US press to challenge the US government collapsed post 9/11, but he is adamant that Obama is worse than Bush.

"Do you think Obama's been judged by any rational standards? Has Guantanamo closed? Is a war over? Is anyone paying any attention to Iraq? Is he seriously talking about going into Syria? We are not doing so well in the 80 wars we are in right now, what the hell does he want to go into another one for. What's going on [with journalists]?" he asks.

What is the sound of trees not dropping in the middle of a forest? We do not notice what does not get mentioned. The article is a partial antidote if you take in a lot of American media.

I'd like to see the development of automated mechanisms to let us create our own news feeds out of raw data. If we can find things worth paying attention to that the liberal media will ignore and if a computer can find useful patterns about them then we could watch the important ignored developments.

By Randall Parker 2013 September 28 12:46 PM 
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2013 September 26 Thursday
Illegal Alien Shortage Raising Farm Laborer Wages

Bad news for billionaires: There aren't enough illegal aliens to prevent farm workers from making $10 and even $11 dollars per hour. This is an outrage. If all the illegal aliens are deported we might even witness farm workers getting paid enough to afford health care and decent housing.

But farmworkers, whose incomes are some of the lowest in the nation, have benefited, their wages jumping in California to $2 to $3 over the $8 hourly minimum wage and even more for those working piece rate.

Why isn't the Democratic Party trying harder to help the struggling rich people? Think about what this says about the future costs of mansion remodeling, large scale landscaping projects, or the price of nannies. Obama you are letting down the upper class. Don't you care? You need to try harder to get a big immigration bill thru Congress.

By Randall Parker 2013 September 26 08:26 PM 
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2013 September 23 Monday
How USAF Almost Nuked North Carolina In 1961

USAF came very close to nuking North Carolina in 1961: US nearly detonated atomic bomb over North Carolina – secret document.

When an organization is powerful the very human tendency is to view it as far more competent than it is in reality.

By Randall Parker 2013 September 23 10:02 PM 
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Attempt To Close Test Score Gap Corrupting Teachers

Read Olivia Blanchard's piece in The Atlantic: I Quit Teach for America: Five weeks of training was not enough to prepare me for a room of 20 unruly elementary-schoolers..

I’d been at TFA training, about to head into this system, when the official report on the cheating scandal in the Atlanta Public Schools was released. My immediate reaction was shock that so many teachers could be complicit in something so outrageously dishonest. Midway through the school year, though, I came to understand exactly how it had happened. APS has some of the best teachers in the country, but surviving in the district means covering yourself, and during standardized testing this means ensuring objective success. In a top-down, ruthless bureaucracy like APS, teachers are front-line foot soldiers, not educators encouraged to pursue their calling.

That article takes you as close to reality as The Atlantic is inclined to get. Which is to say, you'll be on a delusion ocean liner streaming along a few miles off the coast of reality with some of the features of the coast line pointed out. Not deeply lost at sea. But not at dock in a reality port town either.

If you want a stronger dose of reality then read What causes the achievement gap? The Voldemort View and Achievement Gap Politics.

When I was younger, much more ignorant, and did not realize how much adults did not care about the truth I would have found the disconnect between empirical reality and consensus reality an enormous shock if I'd come to discover it all at once. But the process of having the mythologies of my youth stripped from my mind has played out over many years. I rather wish I'd figured out the extent of the mythologies and webs of lies and deceit much sooner.

Update: TFA sounds like it serves a few purposes:

  • A way to signal strong faith. Anyone who goes for TFA is saying they are devout Tabula Rasa believers.
  • A way to build faith. Put yourself in conditions guaranteed to stir doubts among the rational. Can you police your thoughts? Will your learned mantras silence any doubts?
  • A way to build up a network of contacts among the strongest in faith.

Once the cost of genetic sequencing gets low enough to reveal all the genetic causes of differences in academic achievement I wonder what the smarter faithful will make of it. Double down in faith? Adopt a new faith? What new faith?

By Randall Parker 2013 September 23 09:07 PM 
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2013 September 19 Thursday
Elite Schools In Manhattan Try To Ditch IQ Test

Steve Sailer pokes fun at elite Manhattan private grade schools that are trying to find a way to drop an IQ test that they claim parents game with lots of (expensive) test prep training. If the upper class can game these tests with tutorials for their 5 year olds (count me skeptical) and, hey, by living in very expensive Manhattan and also by being able to afford expensive private school tuition then that has got to be bad for some liberal reason. Do the elites miss just how ridiculous they can come across to anyone who stops and thinks about these elite flaps over liberal doctrine?

In spite of all that, let me offer a constructive suggestion: change private school admission age to Horace Mann and other elite Manhattan elementary schools to start at the 3rd grade. This will reduce the error when measuring IQ. A 5 year old's IQ is less likely to match adult IQ than an 8 year old's IQ.

I think later admission makes sense for the schools. Why? Because the reputation of a school depends most on how successful its graduates. By waiting a few years the schools will be able to identify the brightest kids with lower false positive rates. So the average kid they choose will go on to greater success.

More practical advice: let other schools drop the IQ test and allow applicants to optionally sit for the test. Then continue to use the test. The schools that drop the test will admit lower quality students. This will increase your own supply of higher quality kids. Then your kids will be smarter and will do better and your school's reputation will be enhanced in the long run. Do not worry about the criticism you will get for this choice. In the long run your status will be higher.

By Randall Parker 2013 September 19 09:16 PM 
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2013 September 14 Saturday
The Key Chart To Show Libertarian Open Borders Advocates

Get the Libertarian flavor of Open Borders advocates to react to figure 4.2. The poll question "Would you rather have a smaller government providing fewer services or a bigger government providing more services?". Ask them why do they want to enslave us to the welfare state.

By Randall Parker 2013 September 14 09:13 PM 
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Turkey Government Fabricates Evidence To Lock Up Secularists

Dani Rodrik on how the Islamic government in Turkey frames its opponents. It isn't just Erdogan's govenrment but a separate Islamic Gülen movement that is a state within a state that is challenging Erdogan and trying even harder to lock up and silence secularists. Turkey is supposed to be a NATO "ally". An ally against what?

The evidence in this case, as in so many others, consists of Microsoft Word documents found on a computer that belonged to Saylan’s foundation. When American experts recently examined the forensic image of the hard drive, they made a startling – but for Turkey all too familiar – discovery. The incriminating files had been placed on the hard drive sometime after the computer’s last use at the foundation. Because the computer had been seized by the police, the finding pointed rather directly to official malfeasance.

Fabricated evidence, secret witnesses, and flights of investigative fancy are the foundation of the show trials that Turkish police and prosecutors have mounted since 2007. In the infamous Sledgehammer case, a military-coup plot was found to contain glaring anachronisms, including the use of Microsoft Office 2007 in documents supposedly last saved in 2003. (My father-in-law is among the more than 300 officers who were locked up, and my wife and I have been active in documenting the case’s fabrications.)

This illustrates why I think overthrowing Assad in Syria or opposing the military government in Egypt is a bad idea. The Islamists won't give up power once they get their hands on the top level control knobs of government.

The guy who created the Islamic movement which is snuffing out freedom in Turkey is living in Pennsylvania spreading his ideas via schools in the United States:

Gülen lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, where he presides over a huge informal network of schools, think tanks, businesses, and media across five continents. His devotees have established roughly 100 charter schools in the United States alone, and the movement has gained traction in Europe since the first Gülen school was founded in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1995.

The West needs to send these people back to Turkey.

Gülen's advice sounds like what communists were instructed to do in the 1930s and 1940s in American.

You must move in the arteries of the system without anyone noticing your existence until you reach all the power centers. . . . Until the conditions are ripe, they [the followers] must continue like this. If they do something prematurely, the world will crush our heads, and Muslims will suffer everywhere, like in the tragedies in Algeria, like in 1982 [in] Syria, . . . like in the yearly disasters and tragedies in Egypt. . . . The time is not yet right. You must wait for the time when you are complete and conditions are ripe, until we can shoulder the entire world and carry it. . . . You must wait until such time as you have gotten all the state power, until you have brought to your side all the power of the constitutional institutions in Turkey

Gülen schools by state.

By Randall Parker 2013 September 14 07:28 PM 
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2013 September 13 Friday
California Minimum Wage To Hit $10 Per Hour

The California state legislature made a bold move to cut demand for low skilled workers. But they did not go far enough. How about $12 per hour? Or even $14 per hour? Better yet, $15 per hour. Sure, the unemployment rate will rise. But a huge acceleration of automation will raise living standards of the middle and upper classes in the medium term and beyond.

An unemployable lower class is inevitable anyway. Better it happens sooner than later. We already face a rising demographic segment that wants a bigger welfare state (table 4.2). If we cut demand for their labor that segment won't grow as much.

A higher minimum wage will reduce demand for low skilled immigrants and their children and grandchildren. How many legislators were motivated by a deluded view of the labor market? How many were just cynically buying votes? Once we account for those two categories of bad motivations for their votes how many politicians remain who voted for a constructive reason: to cut low skilled immigration?

The benefits of a much higher minimum wage on immigration are so great (outweighing assorted obvious costs) I am hopeful that more state legislatures will take up the battle.

By Randall Parker 2013 September 13 07:40 PM 
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2013 September 08 Sunday
48% Of American Births On Medicaid

The lower classes are making lots of babies which net taxpayers will fund. Net taxpayers, btw, pay more in taxes than they get in benefits. They are a dwindling portion of the US population.

The demographic future of the United States is a growing population which can not pay its way thru life.

In New York City in 2009, 76% of Hispanic births were covered by Medicaid, 70% of births in the black community were covered, and 31% of whites.

This stuff matters. This stuff matters in a very bad way.

The unmentioned elephant in the room: the non-aging part of the demographic problem. We need a more able and more together population. But we are getting the opposite. The last decade of stagnant wages suggests the problems in the US economy go deeper than the weakness of the current recovery. Certainly some big other factors are at work in dragging down the economy. For example, high oil prices and the large scale export of jobs to China and other Asian nations are drags on wages and economic growth. But that just means we need to do better on the stuff we could (at least in theory) control.

Another factor: rising demand for brain power even as automation cuts the demand for brawn power. This is where US immigration policy has been such a counter-productive disaster. We've allowed tens of millions of low skilled people to immigrate who have raised children with low educational attainment and low skills as well. The economy does not need these people. Their wages have therefore declined. An article on the car market highlights the problem:

Young people are essentially locked out of the car market, just as they have been locked out of the housing market -- and the labor market. Average vehicle prices are as high as ever, but wages are low, and unemployment for young people has typically been twice as high as for the overall population.

Grade inflation and lowered standards in high schools and colleges have allowed the number of graduates to rise while hiding the decline in the quality of young workers. A 50% rise in college graduates in the last 25 years came with no increase in STEM graduates. This happened while college tuition costs skyrocketed. STEM course are much harder. Less bright people choose easier majors. We spend lots of tax money to propagate the big academic fraud that all this schooling is delivering benefits.

It is clear that even the native white lower class has become far more dysfunctional. Most of our immigrants are doing much worse. At a time when we need a working population that is much smarter and skilled we instead have lots of poor uneducated girls popping out babies under Medicaid.

I expect most robots will not serve the masses. Instead, I expect most capital will be moved to isolated countries with small populations and low taxes on capital. See Robots To Slash Farm Labor Use, Will Robots Work For Poor Unemployed Masses?, Iceland: The Ideal Country For Fully Robotic Factories.

By Randall Parker 2013 September 08 09:41 PM 
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2013 September 06 Friday
Morsi Backers Take Over Egyptian Town, Terrorize Christians

The inevitable result of neocon policies.

While the United Nations worries about a local shooting in Florida, in Egypt, a group of Islamists who back their nation's ousted leader, fellow Islamist Mohammed Morsi, have taken over the town of Dalga where 20,000 Christians now live under oppression, fear, and violence.

Among our elites there is a double (really at least quadruple) standard for caring about religious groups in the Middle East. Christians are dead last in that multitudinous standard: The New Republic bashes Rand Paul for caring about Syrian Christians. But who takes the biggest brunt of the neocon campaign to invade and reshape the Middle East? The Christians. Take Iraq as an example: more than half of Iraq's Christians have fled since the US 2003 invasion. No doubt more would flee if they could.

Let us be real: If Assad is overthrown in Syria then the death toll among Iraq's Christians will rise, they'll be terrorized, raped, robbed, brutalized. Islam takes a dim view of Christianity and Christians.

American Christians should wake up and understand what liberal and neocon hawkish policies spell for Middle Eastern Christians: persecution. A far more reasonable policy: work to carve out a Christian homeland in the Middle East. A part of Lebanon and a part of Syria ought to become a new refuge nation for Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi, and other Middle Eastern Christians.

By Randall Parker 2013 September 06 11:11 AM 
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2013 September 04 Wednesday
More Kids In Algebra II: Done With Lower Standards

The quest to close the Great American Test Score Gap has corrupted another course in high school: Algebra II.

Getting more students to take higher level math courses may be a hollow victory. It has not coincided with students learning more math. Figure I shows the average NAEP scores for Algebra II completers (in the following discussion, “completers” include students enrolled in the course when they took NAEP). As enrollments boomed, test scores went down. Caution must be exercised in infering causality. We cannot be certain of a causal connection between rising enrollments and falling scores, but it is certainly plausible—even likely--that enrollment gains have been achieved by drawing in students who are not prepared to take the course.

This underscores the need for independent testing services to measure how much we know. High school diplomas can't signal much due to political pressures to lower standards. We need those independent tests even more beyond high school. See Audacious Epigone's "College Exit Exams As Siege Engines for Storming the Cathedral".

We need many more online testing options for practice and then proctored in-person testing to measure for businesses just how much we know.

Admissions standards to colleges have been corrupted by the desire to make all races and ethnic groups do equally well in school. As Education Realist points out in a great essay on the corruption of testing for college admissions, the big push for college exit exams is a reaction to this corruption.

There is an upside to all this. Businesses will begin to doubt the value of a UC Berkeley or UCLA degree (among others). This will increase the demand for exit testing. If the use of exit tests and later life tests becomes widespread as screens when hiring then the demand for bricks and mortar college education will go down and corrupt colleges will shrink in size.

What could help this process along: the ability to link one's online resume to validated test results so that, say, a recruiter could look at your LinkedIn, Facebook, G+, or other online profile and know you scored well by uncorrupted measures. Companies would not need to request scores. Certifications and scores would be there for anyone to look at.

By Randall Parker 2013 September 04 09:53 PM 
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2013 September 01 Sunday
Sunnis Want US To Take Sunni Side In Syria

What is the Syria war really about? Look at who is on each side. Arab Sunni monarchies want the US to overthrow an ally of their Persian Shia enemies.

Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf monarchies have privately urged the United States to take decisive military action to topple the government of Mr. Assad, whom they view as the main regional ally of their foe, Iran.

If the US supplies the Sunni fundamentalist warriors in Syria with enough weapons and air support to overthrow Assad's minority Alawite-Shia regime the Sunnis will grow stronger in the MIddle East. Is that in the US interest? I don't see it that way myself.

But what about Iraq? You will recall that the United States overthrew the Sunni minority government. Now Iraq (at least the non-Kurdish part) is ruled by Shia Arabs. The Shia Arab Iraqi government does not want Assad overthrown, may provide Assad's family a palace if they are overthrown, and are discussing with Iran how to support Assad.

The sources pointed out that “the supreme directives issued by creating one of the presidential palaces in the Radwaniyah or within the presidential compound on in Baghdad to be ready to receive al-Assad and his family at any moment if he wishes to have recourse to Iraq,” noting that “the parties in the Shiite alliance see if Maliki to host Assad a risky venture will have repercussions. ”

Does it really make sense to side with the Sunnis? If so, why? Just because there are more of them? Are they less likely to do crazy things like throw nukes around? Is there any realistic calculation over the Sunni-Shia struggle when the highest levels of the US foreign policy establishment discuss the Middle East? Or are the participants so caught up in liberal mythologies that assorted ridiculous ideals drive the discussion?

If Assad gets overthrown what will the next government of Syria be like? Will they hold one election and basically choose a Sunni dictator for life?

The Gray Lady gets to the heart of it: Saudi Arabia will even use Qaeda affiliates to wage war against Iran's allies. Anyone remember 9/11?

...but has become a volatile regional morass that pits Iran and Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group in Lebanon, against Qaeda affiliates backed by Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf benefactors.

What would George Herbert Walker Bush and Brent Scowcroft do about Assad, Saudi Arabia, Sunni fundamentalist warriors, Iran's client states, Lebanon, Kurds, and all the rest?

Update: Partition is the most sensible thing to do about the rivalr religious sects and rival extended families of the Middle East. They can not be trusted to rule each other fairly. Either the majority shafts the minorities or a minority shafts the rest. The main advantage of minority rule: The minority in power tends to treat the other minorities better and has to do more to placate the majority. So minority rule seems best if the untrusting and unfair groups are going to be bundled up into the same sovereign state.

But regardless of which sect a ruler belongs to we can count on the elites to shaft the rest. The only question is just how badly. A long established royal house (e.g. in Jordan) is likely to be more restrained in its parasitism. But really good government is just not in the cards.

By Randall Parker 2013 September 01 06:59 PM 
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